Fashioning Design

make into a particular or the required form.

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to attend UC’s DAAP Fashion Show — with seats just five rows back from the runway, no less. It was the first time I had been, though I had heard great things about it. In fact, it was the first time I had been to a fashion show, period.

The show is essentially a presentation of the thesis work of graduating seniors. Each student presents a themed set of three to six complete outfits.

And this is professional.

There was theatrical lighting. Music. Projected graphics. Professional models. The creativity and innovation bowled me over. It was almost too much to take in.

Assorted images from fashion show

Then I started thinking, “Wait a minute…what am I looking at here? Color. Texture. Shape. Line. Pattern. This is design! These are my tools!!” I whipped out my phone and started snapping pictures.

I quickly began to see familiar design techniques that were consciously being used in harmony with the human body. For example, in this group, big areas of dark and light create strong shapes, sometimes accentuating shoulders or hips.

areas of dark and light strong shapes

Here the activity of geometric patterns contrasts with solid color.

activity of geometric pattern

The texture of a knit sweater, loose and rich, again pops off a background of smooth, dark fabric.

texture pops

This braided fabric gives us both pattern and texture, depth and drape.


And I’m a sucker for bold geometry with strong contrast (especially with big Jackie Kennedy buttons).

bold geometry, strong contrast

Fun, bold color — with illustration, no less.

bold color and illustration

And text as pattern, just like a magazine spread!

text as pattern

And finally, I just love this assemblage: layers revealing some elements while concealing others. Buckles, leather, woven fabric, knits — with a neutral color palette that ties it all together. Part Lord of the Rings, part Jedi master.

reveal, conceal, buckles, leather, knits

So, what did I take away from this fun event? A reminder of what’s in my tool chest. Seeing how familiar techniques are used in a different medium was truly inspiring, encouraging me to reach for some tools that I haven’t used in a while. It was also a great reminder to look for ways to surprise, to tease, to invite the audience to engage.

Leave a Reply